Have you ever taken the time to observe the rear wheels of any vehicle during parking?
Did you notice the difference in motion between the front and rear wheels? Should rear wheels turn when in park?
Once you set your vehicle to park, you want to be sure that it will stay in the same position till you return. Generally, when the car is in park position, a metal arm- otherwise known as a pawl jams the transmission from the gear, thus keeping the vehicle from moving.
However, the park gear position works more effectively on flat surfaces. The park gear complements the handbrake(also known as the park brake) in ensuring that the vehicle remains intact when parked.
So, Should rear wheels turn when in park?
Should Rear Wheels Turn When in Park?
With both the park brake and park gear in action, the drive wheels remain locked. Drive wheels, in this context, refer to the wheels that transmit force from the torque.
This is known as tractive force, typically transmitted from the tires to the road. If you turn the steering when your car is stationary, you will notice that only the front wheels turn.
The park gear position does not lock any wheels; therefore, they will be free to move as long as they are not touching the ground. However, applying the park brake locks the rear wheels.
In this case, the vehicle should still be able to move. The motion will differ because the wheels skid over the road rather than roll over.
Understanding that the “Park” position does not lock your car wheels is essential. Instead, it locks the transmission from the gearbox. Therefore, the wheels will be free to move; thus, enforcing the park brake is necessary.
The primary function of the park brake-also park brake- is to bypass the hydraulic braking system in case of a failure. It is designed to remain engaged when the car is in parking mode to prevent it from rolling away, especially on sloped surfaces.
However, the front wheels can roll since they are not locked. Most parking techniques show you how to align your front wheels just in case the braking system fails when the car is parked on unlevelled ground.
Additional proof that rear wheels do not turn when in Park is ‘dry steering .’Although not advised, dry steering is when you turn the steering wheel when the car is stationary.
Also Read: Is Rear Wheel Drive Good in the Rain?
Why Do My Wheels Turn When in Park?
Wheels can turn when in the park due to various reasons. Typically, the drive wheels lock while the non-drive wheels can rotate freely when the car is in the park. The park position locks the drivetrain; thus, the undriven wheels should be able to turn.
If you want to know whether it is normal for the front or rear wheels to turn in park, you need to identify which wheels are drive and which are non-drive.
The following are the different types of drive wheels(or drivetrains):
All-wheel drivetrain vehicles have advanced electronics and differential capacity to send power to all four wheels. Each will gains traction and is independent of the other thus, all wheels can turn.
Four-wheel drive vehicles are similar to the AWD in that the drivetrain system transmits power to all four wheels. However, they offer more traction and stability and are more robust on harsh terrains such as icy and off-roads.
The front wheels receive all the engine’s power in front-wheel drive cars or trucks. The rear wheels consequently become non-driven and can move independently.
With the RWD, all the power goes to the rear wheels. That means the rear wheels push the car forward while the front wheels can navigate the vehicle.
Whichever type of drivetrain, the idler wheels are always independent of the axle and can turn freely even when in park. On the other hand, the drive wheels can turn in opposite directions due to how the differential works.
Should Your Tires Always be Straight When Parked?
When parking on a level surface, it is wise to always ensure your tires are straight since there is bias to the vehicle’s weight.
Straightening the wheels gives you an easy time when you want to leave, especially if other vehicles are parked parallel to yours.
However, leaving the tires straight when parking uphill or downhill can be risky. On an unlevel ground, you should leave the wheels turned to prevent the car from rolling into traffic in case the handbrake fails.
While parking uphill, turn the front wheels away from the curb until the vehicle rolls back and gently until the rear part of the front wheels rests against the curb.
Where there is no curb, always turn the front wheels to the right, so the vehicle rolls away from traffic in case the park brakes fail.
When parking downhill, turn the front wheels toward the curb and let the vehicle turn gently until the front tire rests against the curb. Where there is no curb, the wheels should remain turned to the right for safety if the vehicle rolls.
How Do I Make Sure My Wheels Are Straight When Parking?
If you want to know if the car wheels are straight on the outside, let the steering wheel guide you. The standard rule is that a steering wheel should take two complete 360-degree turns before fully locking.
Therefore, two turns back should bring the will back to the center of the wheel locks in one direction.
Another hack is to look at the insignia on the steering wheel. For most vehicles, you can be sure the wheels are straight if the steering wheel is facing the right way up.
Alternatively, you can add colored tape to the top center part of the steering wheel to know if the wheel is straight without having to look down.
You can also set the car to neutral and drive forward or back a little to check which direction the vehicle veers off, especially on unlevel ground.
Lastly, you can try to look out the window, if you can, and check if the wheels are facing forward.
Is It Bad to Park With Your Wheels Turned?
Parking with the wheels turned can be good or bad, depending on where you are parking. If you are parking on a straight or level ground, it is necessary to park with the wheels turned, as dry steering can damage tires prematurely.
Additionally, it is easier to bump or scratch vehicles parked next to you in tight parking spots on other parallel parking spaces. Therefore straightening the wheels saves you from such accidents in case you forget to straighten the wheels.
On the other hand, it is safer to park with your wheels turned if you are parking uphill or downhill. Let the front wheels face your right direction if you are unsure which direction to turn the wheels. That way, the vehicle will veer away from traffic in case the brakes fail.
Whether or not your rear wheels will depend on the type of vehicle or the drivetrain. If yours are turning abnormally, this could be a sign of alignment issues; hence it needs professional review.
Servicing your vehicle frequently may help you catch such faults early.
I am passionate about all things automotive and have a deep understanding of the topic. As a mechanic, I use my free time to share knowledge of everyday challenges that any car owner can experience – helping you make informed decisions about tires.